Coman nearly there, Robben's hopes fade

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In the wake of Thursday’s World Cup qualifiers, Kingsley Coman can celebrate but Arjen Robben is plagued with anxiety. Coman and UEFA Euro runners-up France have all but guaranteed a spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but Robben and the Dutch are in serious danger of missing out on the tournament. When the two Bayern players faced each other on Thursday evening in Paris, the match ended disastrously for the Elftal, who lost 4-0. The men in orange lie fourth in Group A with only 10 points, behind France (16), Sweden (13) and Bulgaria (12).

Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring on 14 minutes for the superior Equipe Tricolore, who had a one-man advantage for the last 30 minutes after Kevin Strootman was dismissed in the 62nd minute for a second yellow card. Thomas Lemar (73, 88) and Kylian Mbappé (90+1) both stepped up to the plate, as did Coman, who was a great asset to his team before he was substituted in the closing stages of the match. Robben captained his team well but was unlucky to hit the crossbar shortly before full time.

The Dutch, third-place finishers at the 2014 World Cup, must now win all their remaining matches to have any chance of finishing second, which would earn them a spot in the playoffs. On Sunday, Oranje face off against Bulgaria, the team closest to them in the table, in a potentially decisive match. By contrast France host last-placed Luxembourg and could guarantee their World Cup slot.

Own goal by Vidal, Columbia held

In South American qualifying, the evening turned sour for Arturo Vidal and Chile. In front of a home crowd, the Copa America champions suffered a surprisingly clear-cut 3-0 defeat at the hands of Paraguay, a severe setback in Vidal and his team’s fight for a spot at the World Cup. An own goal by Vidal (25) was the beginning of the end for Chile, with Victor Caceres (55) and Richard Ortiz (90+1) sealing the final result in the second half. James Rodríguez is still recovering from injury and sat out Columbia’s goalless draw against Venezuela, who remain last.

In the standings, the fight for the top four spots has intensified. Record champions Brazil (36 points) remain the clear front-runners, but with Columbia (25), Uruguay (24), Chile, Argentina (23 each), Peru, Paraguay (21 each) and Ecuador (20), seven teams still have a chance of a guaranteed place in Russia. The top four qualify directly for the finals, while the team in fifth place contest a playoff against their counterparts from Oceania.

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